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More than a Mere Man (+Q&A) | John 6:1-21

Today we jump back into the gospel of John. And I don’t think there’s a better way to get back into the narrative of Jesus’ life than by seeing him feed 5,000 with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish, and by seeing him walk on water. That’s probably the best way to jump right back in. Wow!

So, I’m really excited to get back into John, and I want to do something a little different than normal at the end of our time. Usually, the texting Q&A is geared toward the sermon, asking questions about what we’re talking about. I still want you to do that, but I’m going to open up that Q&A to anything you’d like to ask. I’m not promising I’m going to answer all of them, but you can ask about anything you’d like to: John 6, the reliability of the Bible, politics, raising children, foster care. Whatever. Again, not promising I’m going to answer all of them this morning, but I want to open it up. The number will be on the screen, and it’s set up to be totally anonymous, even for me. So, please take advantage of that!

 

Introduction

So, in John 6, Jesus feeds 5,000 and he walks on water. You know, there’s a reason these stories from Jesus’ life enchant us. We know children get excited hearing these kinds of stories, but I hope they also captivate us, as adults! These are not accomplishments from any mere man like you and me. Plain and simple: none of us could do this!

What we see in Jesus performing miracles is very tangible expressions of his power and his glory, which we need to see! It’s easy to only speak of Jesus in general terms: He’s the God-man. He created everything; He sustains everything. And all of that’s true, but sometimes it’s good to get specific. To try and wrap our minds around particular signs from the God-Man, Jesus.

He is so much more than a mere man. And yet this seems to be THE struggle for Christians and non-Christians alike: we just don’t attribute to Jesus the glory that he is due! We see and understand Jesus on our terms, as opposed to his own. We see him as some sort of amped-up man. We call him God, but do we really attribute to him God-like status in our lives? That’s the question.

When faced with job uncertainty, when faced with political changes or even upheavel, when diagnosed with cancer, when facing infertility or anything else that we experience in life. Do we see and understand that this man whom we know personally, is GOD. Not, like “oh, he’s god…” Like in a pithy way. But, “He’s GOD!” with all the weight and meaning of that truth.

Let’s be reminded of what that looks like, that Jesus is GOD, and that he proved himself to be. John 6:1-21. Starting in verse 1:

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

So as a reminder, John wrote this gospel to convince readers of who Jesus is. We find John’s purpose in writing near the end of the gospel, in John 20:30-31. This is what he writes in those verses:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

So, we know John wrote this to let anyone who would read it know that Jesus is the Christ, the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sin of the world! His life proves this, and so we should believe upon Him for eternal life. So, specific to that overarching goal that John has, here are Five Identifiers of Jesus from these two miracles.

 

  1. Jesus is more than a man.

The simple fact of the matter is that these things that Jesus did could not have been accomplished by any mere man. These things could not have been accomplished by anyonebut God himself. And apparently Jesus wanted to make that very obvious. In verses 5 and 6, Jesus asks Philip: “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Then the writer explains: “He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.” Jesus didn’t ask them this question because he was just, genuinely wondering. He knew what he was going to do! He asks this question to make sure the disciples knew where theystood with the food. They’re stuck. They cannot feed the 5,000 men present, with women and children on top of that. So, really this could have been 10, 15, 20,000 people. No mere man could do this.

Nor could some impersonal force that we somehow leverage like on Star Wars. Jesus didn’t need to consult any higher or more powerful being than Himself. He didn’t have to do any of that! There was no middle man, like is common with those nowadays who claim supernatural or paranormal abilities.

I think of psychics. I don’t know of any psychics in Lee’s Summit, but I do know there are plenty nearby: Raytown, Independence, Leawood, Kansas City obviously, Raymore even, which surprised me because it’s a smaller town. But most of these psychics claim that they can interpret paranormal forces. Some claim they can even contact the dead. Even if those claims were true, all they’re doing is interpretinga force, or trying to communicatewith someone else. For Jesus, there is no higher power or supernatural force that he must leverage or get into contact with. Jesus himself, with the Father, is the highest force.

And so he can multiply food simply because he chooses to. And he doesn’t have to do a dance, or make a potion, he doesn’t even have to speak. He can multiply food, and he can walk on water.  To walk on water, do you realize, Jesus must have power over natural law. Specifically: Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. I am certainly not an expert on this, but I am able to google a definition pretty easily. So here’s Google’s definition:

“Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that every particle attracts every other particle in the universe with a force which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportionate to the square of the distance between their centers. “

More simply put, and for our purposes: “When you step in water, you’re supposed to sink!” Right?! Yes. No mere human being has this kind of power over natural forces. I’m pretty sure everyone in here sinks with they step in water. I know we live in an age of technological advancement, which is great, and I love it. But sometimes all this technology and progression in scientific fields, in particular, can cause us to think that we’re invincible. Nothing can touch us! We can do anything we so desire. What’s the actual truth of it? Actually, we can’t do anything… We can’t walk on water, can we? We can’t multiple food simply by choosing to do so. But Jesus is no mere man. He’s the God-Man. He’s able to do what we’re not able to do. The 2ndidentifier of Jesus:

 

  1. Jesus is more than a genie(6). 

Now this is a minor point in the text, and yet a huge point within our culture today. Notice, that Jesus decided to perform this miracle. He wasn’t coerced, nor was this miracle “claimed” in Jesus’ name by some man trying to demand that Jesus do it!

Some churches and movements, today, teach that Christians can “name it and claim it.” Whatever we desire, whatever we think we need. If we name it, and claim it, it is ours. I think it’s worth pointing out that the only one with the right and ability to truly name it and claim it is Jesus himself! He’s the only one with that kind of authority. Now, as God’s children, and as followers of Jesus, we absolutely can ask God for whatever we want or whatever we need. And yet, ultimately, it is God who decides whether to answer with a yes.

I think this is an important clarification when we talk about miracles. Do miracles happen today? Absolutely. Absolutely they do. But, miracles happen when God decides for miracles to happen. We can’t demand this from God like we’re entitled to it. Mark 11:24 is the verse most often used to support this kind-of “name it and claim it” theology, which, at first glance, I can understand how you can go wrong: This is Jesus’ words in Mark 11:24: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Again, at first glance, “Name it and claim it” might seem like a good summary of Jesus’ words here.

But, without getting into too much of a tangent here, let me just say: when we read the Bible, we must take every verse in context with the verses and chapters around it, and honestly, in context with the entirety of the Bible. To use this verse to claim that we can demand physical healing or any other physical thing is grossly out of step with the entirety of Scripture, including the immediate context of this verse. We have to have in mind the attitude of Jesus himself in Mark 14:36, for example: “Father, all things are possible for you…Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Again, without giving all the answers for how to understand Mark 11, Jesus’ point is that when we ask God for good things, and we’re asking in submission to him, we can be confident that he will “supply every need,” to use Paul’s language in Philippians 4:19. We can claim what God has already promised in his Word. Because we know His Word does not return void. We know He keeps his promises. But we shouldn’t go about putting words in God’s mouth. In summary, Jesus is not a genie; and only he can name it and claim it. Identifier number 3:

 

  1. Jesus is more than a prophet(14). 

So Jesus feeds the 5,000 men plus women and children, and the leftovers from the barley loaves fill up twelve baskets. He goes from have five loaves and 2 fish (likely in one basket), to 12 baskets full of leftovers after feeding all 5,000 plus women and children.

So, naturally, the people respond amazed! Look at verse 14 again: “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” They recognized him as the one prophesied all the way back in Deuteronomy 18. God promised not only a line of prophets to speak to Israel on behalf of God, but also an ultimate prophet who would come. In Jesus’ day, there was an expectation of a final prophet, which is why these people call him “the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

So they got part of this right. They responded with knowing that this man is the man promised to us by God in the Old Testament. So what’s the problem? Apparently, most of their understanding of who Jesus is stopped there. Yes, he is a prophet. Yes, he fulfills this Old Testament promise—you can read Acts 3 and Peter also says that Jesus fulfills this prophecy. BUT, he is more than a mere prophet, because he’s more than a mere man. That leads us into the next identifier. There’s this progression of the people’s misunderstanding, these Galileans who were just fed miraculously. Identifier Number 4:

  

  1. Jesus is more than a politician(15).

Praise the Lord, yes? Jesus is not only more than a politician; a more accurate way to put it would be to say, He’s not a politician. But, again, this crowd of people didn’t fully grasp this. We see what happens in verse 15. Right after they recognize that he’s the Prophet who is to come, John writes this, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”

So, this crowd was quickly becoming a mob of sorts. They were going to take him by force, against his will in other words, and make him king! Why? Because in their minds the overwhelming influence to overcome was that of the Romans. The Romans were the ones in authority, and so they thought it made perfect sense! If Jesus is the Prophet who is to come, then let’s make him king! He is God’s man! He can save us from these Romans!

If the first prophet, Moses, could lead God’s people out of slavery to Egypt, then surely this ultimate prophet could rescue the Galileans from Roman oppression and power. If he’s able to feed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, then surely he can beat the Romans! The Galileans wanted him for his earthly influence.

The problem here is that Jesus is not merely some earthly king or politician. He’s the King of the Universe. His Kingdom is not limited to some earthly seat of power. He reigns over all, including the spiritual world! At his first coming, in particular, Jesus’ kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. Jesus withdrew to a mountain because he had his eyes set on something far greater than freedom from Roman servitude. He had his eyes on a kingdom made up of people bought by his own blood. He had his eyes on eternal life through the forgiveness of sins.

For this crowd, they saw Rome as the enemy, when Jesus understood that their true enemy was their own sin. Freedom from that slavery takes much more than merely finding a new earthly king or politician, doesn’t it? Ultimately, it takes the death and resurrection of the Son of God.

It’s worth noting here, especially because of the timing with the mid-term elections this week. We need to be rightly concerned with political influence. We need to be rightly concerned. But catch how I’m saying that: rightly concerned. Meaning, NEVER overwhelmed…Never, no matter the stakes. You know why we should never be overwhelmed? Because God reigns. 50 years from now, every elected official now serving will no longer be in a position of influence. That doesn’t mean that politics doesn’t matter, at all. But I hope it’s a healthy reminder: 50 years from now, as well as 3 trillion years from now: Jesus will still be reigning.

Jesus has his eyes set far beyond just the politics of the United States. I think sometimes we forget we’re one out of 200 countries in the world—granted, it’s the US, and we have a lot of influence, and prosperity. But still: we do remember that Jesus is King of the world, right? That’s a great attitude to have in going to vote this week in the mid-term election. No matter how important political elections can become, and I hope you’re planning to vote if you haven’t already, but no matter how important or potentially game-changing—we have no reason to be overwhelmed or desperate before the elections, nor do we have reason to be devastated if the elections don’t go our way. You know why?

Because our King is THE King. And he doesn’t need constituents, or lobbyists, or a support base—He reigns over all. And one day every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Jesus is not some earthly politician or King. He is THE King of all. I wrote it on Facebook yesterday, but I’ll say it this morning: The influence we can leverage on earth through politics is limited. Christ’s reign is not. Praise God. That brings us to identifier Number 5.

This is really more of a summary. He’s not merely a man or merely a prophet. And he is NOT a genie nor a politician. So what is he? Identifier Number 5:

 

  1. Jesus is SUPREME.

I love what happens in verses 19 and 20: “When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.” Anyone else think, “Well yeah, I’d be frightened too!”? Verse 20: “But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’”

What Jesus says here, literally, is “I am” (ego eimi). Now, I don’t think he’s making any explicit reference here yet, to God’s own title for himself in Exodus 3:14. God calls himself “I Am” there in Exodus. I don’t think Jesus is making that connection here, yet. Because “ego eimi” is a common way in the Greek to say, “It is I.” I think he was just letting them know it was him.

But, if you read through John, Jesus uses this language more and more with ever-increasing clarity on who, exactly, He is. In fact, when we get to chapter 8, there’s an awesome narrative of Jesus using this Old Testament title for God in reference to himself. It’s John 8:58, and we’re probably going to spend a whole Sunday on that verse when we get there, to consider God’s timelessness. But for now, with “It is I,” I can’t help but think that maybe Jesus is giving us some anticipation here in John 6. It’s like he’s saying, “It is I. And I’ve given you a taste, a glimpse, of who I am. You’ll see even more very soon.” I think that’s the idea here.

 

Conclusion

Ultimately, in these two stories, we see just a taste of who Jesus is. Through this gospel, we will see as clearly as can be, that Jesus is supreme. He is higher, better, chief, FIRST. He’s the main character. So, here’s the question. Really, it’s the ultimate question we can ever ask. What status do we give Jesus in our lives? Is he merely a supporting character for you? Do you see him as playing one part in making your life better? Perhaps like we would see a genie or, at times, a politician? Do you see him as one who can speak sometruth into your life, like a prophet, perhaps?

Or do you see him as SUPREME. As THE main character? Here we see the tiniest glimpse of the majesty of Jesus. “There isn’t enough food, let me think it into existence. There’s no boat, I’ll just walk in water.” These things amaze us, but really, they’re the tiniest glimpses of his glory. He’s not only sovereign over all of Creation. He wasn’t only there at Creation. He himself was the agent of all creation, and exercises absolute, sovereign authority over it.

Get a glimpse. No matter the times or the political suspense, don’t let the news determine your attitude and your priorities. Your hope, I hope, is not in any mere man nor mere prophet, not a genie and certainly not in any politician. Our hope is in Jesus, and guess what? He walks on water.